Sunday, May 25, 2008

Imagine! Environmentalist calls Dion’s carbon tax “ridiculous”

Turns out you don't have to be a Liberal MP to know that Stephane Dion’s carbon tax plan - the plan that puts the rest of us on the tab for a “polluters right to pollute" - is the worst idea to come out of Ottawa since the garlic Beaver Tail.

A host of critics (including Dion) are already on record saying Dion's carbon tax would push people into poverty. Now more environmentalists are saying it's a bad idea.

A spokesperson for New Brunswick’s leading environmental group has taken dead aim at Dion’s pledge that his carbon tax would be "revenue neutral". Then what's the point? asks David Coon:

But David Coon, policy director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, says a "revenue neutral" carbon tax will not help the environment or reduce carbon emissions.

He says the only way a carbon tax can have a positive effect on the environment is if the resulting revenues are invested into environmental initiatives like renewable energy sources, construction efficiency programs, and public transportation.

"Neutrality is ridiculous. The point is that if you want to do something, we actually need to make some investments in things like converting our energy system over to one that is more environmentally sustainable."

A truly revenue-neutral tax could not theoretically accomplish any of those goals because government would not be accumulating any new revenues, said Coon.

He ridicules the idea that a carbon tax could somehow reduce energy consumption but won't be accomplished by skyrocketing gas and energy prices.

"If the expectation is that somehow that tax by itself is going to have any impact whatsoever on households, it will not. It will not have one bit of impact on households' consumption of energy," he said, noting that Efficiency New Brunswick's programs are already running on all cylinders.

Coon's is a good point. If Dion’s plan means taxing you more for home heating and gasoline, only to pump that same amount of money back into tax cuts, precisely where on earth is the money going to come from if we are ever going to retrofit homes or build new transit? Municpal property taxes? Thin air?

Dion used to agree with Jack Layton and the NDP that a cap-and-trade carbon market where big polluters pay for the right to pollute was the right way to go. Now Dion is in favour of the same carbon tax scheme he opposed less than two years ago!

They don’t mind punishing the poor and they don’t know where the money will come from. The half-baked ideas they used to deride, they are now the champions of.

The Liberals are just making it up as they go along. Imagine.


leftdog said...

BINGO! Now we are talking! I just had someone on my site trying to portray May and Dion as environmental saints for their 'carbon tax' on working families!
Great post!

Scruffy Dan said...

I have to strongly disagree. Assuming a carbon tax is properly implemented (and we still don't know enough about Dion's plan to know if it will be effective) a carbon tax a great way to change our behavior. A carbon tax will make dirty energy/products more expensive than 'clean' energy/products thus allowing the majority of Canadians (who will gravitate to the cheaper option) to change their behavior for the better.

In Economic terms such a tax (also called a pigovian tax) works by internalizing costs (aka externalities) and allows the free market to function as it should.

Ultimately it is us who are responsible for the environmental problems we new face. It is easy to blame large faceless corporations who are making record profits, but the reality is they are just making the products we demand. The polluter pays principle means that we have to pay, and we have to change our behavior if we are to solve the environmental problems we face.

Blogging Horse said...

Thanks Buckdog. Not even 2 years ago, Dion was leading the charge against carbon tax, now he's an ardent champion of what he then called "bad policy". Smells like cynical political-game-playing.

Scruffy: Over 50% of GHG emissions are caused by industrial polluters and the oil sands alone are going to be the single largest contributor for years to come. Coon is right. Dion's carbon tax pushes the costs that industry should be paying onto the rest of us without reducing GHGs. Dion used to agree with Layton. Now he's sided with Tom D'Aquino and the biggest polluters in the country.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! As Green, I've been riding the carbon tax bandwagon all along. Dion's conversion means little to me except that he's finally agreed to what the vast majority of economists and environmentalists have been saying for years.

I find the idea that a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system are mutually exclusive to fly in the face of European and Scandinavian reality.

As far as I can see, the NDP wants to raise costs for polluting industries in a non-revenue neutral way; i.e. increase government revenue and use that increased revenue to fund green stuff. Fair enough but who is going to pay the increased costs?

Every business, from the self-employed handyman to EXXon, derives their revenue from one source: their customers. Without a tax-shift, those customers will pay 100% of the increased costs of doing business.

The way it looks to me is that teh NDP won't play along with the idea of carbon tax and cap-and-trade working together, they want to increase government revenue which will ultimately be borne by the consumer and they want to utilize a free market solution that will take years to create and develop.

I'm glad to see that you've found one environmentalist against the carbon tax. Like Jack said on CTV yesterday, discussion is good.


j said...

The NDP plan sounds like it's based upon the cumbersome European cap-and-trade model. To be honest, the end result of cap-and-trade vs. carbon tax are only marginally different -- the greatest difference lies in the amount of bureaucracy created and, in turn, the amount of time it takes to implement the change.

The cumbersome permit system for cap-and-trade in Europe has had huge loopholes and obstacles to overcome. Often it has resulted in creating subsidies for business with no measurable gains for the environment. It's improving, but it has taken almost a decade to do so. We simply don't have that kind of time in Canada left to tweak a system like this. We have five years or less to deal with climate change.

You and Coon also miss the most important point of income and payroll tax deductions -- that being the potential transfer of capital into alternative energy. On its own, the carbon tax merely discourages behaviour. But when coupled with income and payroll tax cuts, it frees up necessary capital to invest into cleantech and alternative energy. This can be encouraged with other kinds of incentives that will likley be a part of the plan.

Free, individual investment of this kind is critical, because when oil prices double, energy will become so capital intensive that it will discourage investment. That’s what makes the timing of this plan so poignant.

Malcolm+ said...

The RedGreen carbon tax proposal is elitist. It reflects economic elitism by shifting tax burden to ordinary working folk. It reflects regional elitism by attacking an industry which is a major employer in western Canada. If you're a working class person in Alberta or Saskatchewan, you are doubly screwed.